Thirteen is not always unlucky. For example, our top thirteen of Transylvania was fun and extremely interesting. Plus full of nice people and sunny weather. If you want to find out the very details of our 6-day-trip, go to the article How to plan a car trip to Transylvania.
Try to picture a typical medieval town from the movies about vampires. With all its gothic spike towers and narrow cobbled streets where the fog takes disturbing shapes by night. Now add cozy cafes and restaurants and the omnipresent souvenir shops selling "blood-covered" fridge magnets. Welcome to Sighisoara!
Although small, Sighisoara has lots to offer. As a birthplace of Vlad the Impaler, known better as Count Dracula, the town is obliged to commemorate his (however infamous) memory. As a result, all over the town, you'll find Dracula mugs, Dracula postcards, Dracula mousepads. In restaurants, they sell Dracula pizzas and Dracula pasta. However corny it might seem, you'll get carried away, like everyone. We did - our photos with the vampire fangs on will always remind us the fun we had in Sighisoara.
Which ones? We've seen many of them (and all listed on UNESCO World Heritage list) and can't decide anyway. The fortified churches, founded by the Transylvanian Saxons in the Middle Ages, are the top tourist attraction in the region and worth a visit of its own. The easiest to reach is Biertan (30-minute drive from Sighisoara), Harman and Prejmer (both 10-minute drive from Brasov). See at least one of these, if you have limited time in Romania.
If you're tired of a small town atmosphere of Sighisoara (although we can't really imagine it), you'll get your big town vibe in Brasov. Here, the restaurants are open till the last guest and moving between the ends of the city takes more than 10 minutes (and we're talking about the old town only). Yet, the history is omnipresent, and you'll find plenty of absorbing sights to fill your travel itinerary with. Brasov is also a perfect starting point for visiting Rasnov fortress and the castles of Sinaia.
By many called the most beautiful road in the world, the Transfagarasan runs through the southern section of the Carpathian Mountains. As it's the second-highest paved road in Romania (after the Transalpina), it is open only from June to October. But the harsh conditions might surprise you even in the middle of summer - it happened to us when the fog clouded almost half of the scenery. The road runs for only 90 kilometers, but don't count on driving less than one day - the views are simply too stunning not to stop on each and every bend for a photo.
This is THE REAL castle of Count Dracula. Not some sleek (although charming) pretender people visit in Bran. In Poienari to reach the castle (located on the very top of the hill), you have to pay it with blood. Well, all right, maybe these days only with sweat, but still, it isn't a piece of cake. And when you add the ubiquitous warnings against the bears, the blood doesn't seem so unlikely, does it?
To properly remind you who owed the castle (now ruins), you'll be welcome by two impaled wretches. Beware! And enjoy the view.
All around the world the walls have ears. In Sibiu the roofs have eyes. And if it isn't a good enough reason to visit this idyllic town, you pick one from the list: beautiful old town, nice parks, good museums, picturesque trekking trails, cozy cafes and restaurants... we could go on like this forever. Ah, let's not forget that Sibiu is a perfect starting point for a weekend trip via Transfogarian Road.
This Gothic-Renaissance castle in Hunedoara is a Transylvanian-dream-come-true. Splendid and majestic, the castle could easily host any Disney princess. What am I saying, they would fight for it! The castle is definitely worth a long drive, even though it's practically the only thing worth visiting in Hunedoara (the town is very industrial). So try to ignore a huge steel plant near the castle and give the castle a few hours of your time.
Rasnov Citadel is a medieval fortress, very well organized, with a museum, craft shops and places where you can take a souvenir photo with a medieval hatchet in your head. Yes, Rasnov is no place for boredom. You might reach the summit with a funicular (its lower station is located a bit above the Market Square), climb the stairs along the funicular or walk on the tarmac on another side of the hill. In fact, you don't need to walk, there's a little "train" that can take you to the very top of the hill for a few lei. One of its stops is near the Dino Parc. Did we mention the Dino Parc? Yes, Rasnov Citadel is a whole pack!
Built on the Arges River in 1966, the dam created the artificial but very picturesque lake also named Vidraru. Near the dam, there's a hotel, Posada Vidraru, where we spent the night before taking the Transfogarian Road. It was a very relaxing place, and we wishe we stayed longer to take a boat ride and a stroll in the forest. We only can't understand why the Romanian authorities hurt the area of the dam so much by allowing this hideous graffiti-ad above the road tunnel.
Ever played ping-pong 100 meters underground? Now you can, if you visit Salinas Turda (Turda's salt mine). And that's not the only unbelievable activity you can engage yourself in: there's also mini golf, a Ferris wheel, pond with rowing boats, snooker... you name it. Everything in beautiful settings of lights and salt crystals. Plus, it's said to be a blessing for lungs. Not only for asthmatics!
W H A T T O S E E N E X T
Lovely, compact and star-shaped Alba Iulia fortress will constitute a nice break in your Transylvanian trip. No climbing and sweating this time, all is flat and paved. A couple of hours will be enough to enjoy freshly restored facades of the historic buildings and monuments. And if it's time for lunch, have it in Alba Iulia - the fortress is full of nice cafes and restaurants.
Bran Castle is by many named "number one tourist attraction in Transylvania." It didn't enchant us, though. It is wrongly thought to be the home of the title character in Bran Stoker's Dracula, which might explain its vast popularity. The castle is beautiful, there's no doubt about it, but visiting it might turn out to be a horror. Not because of vampires but due to those who come here in search of the vampire legends. To buy the entrance tickets we had to wait in a 30-minute line. Then we spent another 30 minutes to actually enter the castle. Then another eternity to slowly tiptop through the chambers. So if you decide to come (and we're sure you will), avoid weekends and public holidays.
Cluj is the fourth most populous city in Romania, so don't expect an easy encounter, especially if you compare it to the previously described treasures of Transylvania. Moving between objects of interest might mean the necessity to take some modes of transportation. But it's a beautiful city and full of places worth visiting. We especially liked the botanical garden.